With the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle now out of copyright, anyone can take on his mantle and write about his characters. The best known are Sherlock Holmes and his chronicler, Dr John Watson, so it is unsurprising that there is a sudden plethora of books featuring the detective. This one, The Albino’s Treasure, is one of seventeen, so far, from Titan Books by a number of different authors.
This particular adventure purports to be one that was never published at the time, the manuscript being hidden away for reasons of National Security. It is dated 1896 so aficionados can fit it into the chronology of Holmes’s adventures. There are many of the familiar subsidiary characters such as Inspector Lestrade and Mrs Hudson and tropes familiar to regular readers, such as Holmes’s pipe and ability to disguise himself.
It starts with an incident at the National Portrait Gallery, when a picture of Lord Salisbury is slashed by a man who appears to be an Irish dissident. Told that this could be connected to a plot to harm Her Majesty, Holmes’s is prepared to investigate and prepares to ingratiate himself with the Brotherhood of Ireland. During the struggle to subdue the slasher, a number of other portraits are damaged, one of which turns out to be a forgery. This enables Watson to revisit the gallery and make the acquaintance to Miss Rhodes. While the Irish connection appears to be a dead end, the real portrait is returned by a Chinaman, she reveals that the forged portrait – of Charles 1st – was purchased from a country house. Following a trail of mayhem, they discover that there are six items from the house and a mysterious person known as The Albino is trying to acquire them, believing that they hold the key to what is referred to as England’s Treasure. Holmes must not only attempt to solve the riddle before The Albino but to try and prevent any more deaths.
The use of Holmes’s deductive prowess is used effectively, and the Victorian London setting is described well. The big problem is the use of language which does not always fit the period. Modernisms such as ‘tasked’ should be weeded out of any final manuscript. The other problem this particular volume has is that Watson is s mitten by Miss Rhodes. Since he is not prone to having temporary attachments – it was not the done thing in Victorian Britain – it seems odd to include someone who may well not appear in any other novel, and suggest that Watson is a womaniser. If these issues were ironed out, this would make a fair addition to the body of Sherlock Holmes stories.